childhood experiences

Giving Back to Girl Scouts: Water Drop Patch Inspires Young Stewardship

By Michele Drennen

Some of the happiest times I experienced during my childhood in St. Joseph, Mo., were spent as a Girl Scout in St. Francis Xavier Troop #1385. As I look back, memories of going to campouts and field trips, making crafts, earning merit badges and patches, and volunteering to help others provided a positive influence in my life.

EPA team members Jessica Hing, Michele Drennen, and Margarete Heber

EPA team members Jessica Hing, Michele Drennen, and Margarete Heber

When I saw a posting on the One EPA Skills Marketplace website seeking employees who could assist the Girl Scouts organization, I jumped on it!

The Skills Marketplace is a voluntary program that expands professional development opportunities by allowing EPA employees, with supervisor permission, to spend up to 20 percent of their time working on a project in any part of the agency, without leaving their home office.

Before leaving work late one evening in July 2015, I checked the Skills Marketplace website to see if there were any projects related to the field of graphic design. I was excited to see a position for individuals to work with EPA’s Office of Water and the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian wanted to offer a “Waterway” link on their website, which would include free lesson plans for K-12 teachers on water topics, and they recruited EPA as a partner in this endeavor.

The Waterway program is a six-year education and awareness initiative to promote and encourage good stewardship of water. For the program to be successful, it is essential to connect with the public and educate them on the importance of protecting our waterways.

Water Drop Patch with five “rockers”

Water Drop Patch with five “rockers”

The anticipated outcome of this Skills Marketplace project was a completed revision and posting of an updated Girl Scouts Water Drop Patch on the Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital (GSCNC) website, along with requirement guides to engage Girl Scouts in grades K-12.

I applied for the position right away because I knew I could make a tremendous contribution to this project. In addition, I wanted to learn more about the Waterway program and reconnect with the Girl Scouts program that I had remembered so fondly as a child.

I was contacted the next morning by EPA’s Water Data Project Lead, Margarete Heber. After a phone interview, Margarete said she wanted to partner with another EPA applicant, Jessica Hing, whose outreach experience would combine perfectly with my graphic art background to work on the GSCNC Water Drop Patch. Margarete also added a NASA Communication Specialist, Dorian Janney, to the Skills Marketplace team. Dorian brought a vast amount of children’s education outreach experience.

Over the next several months, our team assembled content for requirement guides for each of the Girl Scout levels, containing hands-on projects that were age-appropriate for each level. Once we determined the content for each guide, I designed a draft guide for the GSCNC to approve.

Hands-on learning about Water Drop Patch at Girl Scouts 2016 Maker Day

Hands-on learning about Water Drop Patch at Girl Scouts 2016 Maker Day

I also had the privilege of designing the Water Drop Patch along with five “rocker” patches that fit under the main patch, which could be earned at each Girl Scout level. The rocker patches encourage Girl Scouts to continue to expand their knowledge of their water environment at each program level. Daisies learn about the water cycle; Brownies learn about groundwater; Juniors learn about watersheds; Cadettes learn about careers in the field of water; and Seniors/Ambassadors learn about water laws and water ethics.

On May 7, 2016, I flew to Washington, D.C., to join Margarete and Jessica at the rollout of the Water Drop Patch at Girl Scouts 2016 Maker Day. This event promotes hands-on learning across all levels and provides a place to explain, demonstrate, and share their projects with each other. The One EPA Skills Marketplace team, joined by two Senior Girl Scouts, generated enthusiasm and interest in the Water Drop Patch among the Girl Scouts and their leaders by offering demonstrations of the requirements for each level.

Water Drop Patch information, along with other patches Girl Scouts can earn, is available on the National Girl Scouts website.

About the Author: Michele Drennen serves as an Environmental Protection Specialist at EPA Region 7. She is also on the Process Excellence Team and serves as Skills Marketplace Coordinator for EPA Region 7. Michele has a degree in english with an emphasis in technical communication and a minor in business from Missouri Western State University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Lifelong Journey from the Towns of Guatemala

By Ana Corado

I would like to tell you the story that leads to my leaving the Sava Center in Belgrade, Serbia, on a late foggy Friday evening, after a long week of discussions on international chemicals management.

My story begins many years ago, as a child in Guatemala, where I was born and raised. My parents worked with grassroots and international organizations devoted to rural education in a country that has over 20 different ethnic indigenous groups. As early as I can remember, my school vacation consisted of living in remote villages where other children wore non-western clothing and spoke indigenous languages. To this day I recall the mountain air, clean water springs, pine forests and starry nights. The villages lacked electricity and most didn’t have running water. Our days were filled with basic chores: collecting water, washing clothes by hand, helping set the fire, cooking, or walking through corn fields discussing agricultural practices. Despite their scant material comforts, peasants in the communities welcomed us into their lives.

These childhood experiences taught me an invaluable lesson in appreciating other cultures. These lessons would again be applied when I came to the United States to pursue advanced studies in environmental engineering and became a U.S. citizen. I started my professional career in Los Angeles working on water resources issues, later moved to work for EPA’s regional office in San Francisco, and then to EPA headquarters in Washington, where I was introduced to the Office of International and Tribal Affairs.

My interest in technical issues led me to the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics at
EPA where I work on international chemicals management issues. On a day-to-day basis, I provide technical support to U.S. efforts with international partners. I attend international meetings where countries discuss how to work together to ensure that chemicals are used and produced in ways that minimize potential adverse effects on human health and the environment. Again, my childhood experience with different cultures helps me to better understand the need for diplomatic engagement with partners around the world. This work took me to that cold night in Belgrade, where despite feeling tired after a long-week of discussions, I had the satisfaction that 150 delegates at the meeting agreed to continue efforts to reduce the use of lead in paint globally and promote the use of alternatives to perfluorinated chemicals.

About the Author: Dr. Ana Corado is an Environmental Engineer with the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics and member of the international team. She has worked on environmental issues for 20 years in the U.S. where she resides with her husband and daughter. She still continues to support educational initiatives in Guatemala.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.